Two Weeks in South Korea: Day 8 – Final Day In Busan

I know that there’s a school of thought that it’s better to leave a holiday destination wishing to have had more time to do things than to have stayed too long and long exhausted all options. Still though, two and a half days to properly explore Busan just wasn’t enough and will just have to be put aside for a potential future visit.

So, with about five hours to get in some final Busan goodness, time was of the essence and we had to make it across the city and back in order to see Beomeosa Temple. In Korean Buddhism this is a pretty important temple and, as the story goes, the monks living here have fought off Japanese invaders a number of times. Honestly, I thought that sort of thing was just a Kung fu movie trope – apparently not.

The temple itself is housed most of the way up a mountain in the north of Busan with the surrounding areas being heavily forested. On the bus up to the temple (there is a possible hike up, but we didn’t exactly have the time) there were so many people with hiking poles and other such equipment as this temple is the starting point of a number of really beautiful trails. Thankfully, the path from the bus stop didn’t require such accoutrements.

On the walk up, you see a lot of stern looking tortoises carrying carved stone columns on their back as a way to help demarcate the presence of a temple. The beautiful wooden gates do a similar job, but one of them (the Cheonwangmun Gate) houses something special inside.

Inside of this second entryway into the temple are four painted wooden statues each depicting one of the four Guardian Kings who relate to the main compass directions. I didn’t manage to get this in the photos, but it’s interesting to note how two of the four statues are physically crushing a rather disagreeable looking person beneath their foot. I’m not sure of the symbolism behind this, but it was weird to see.

Up some more stairs and you are in the main temple courtyard with numerous places of worship and a lot of off-limits areas dotted around. In the end, this is a working temple with accommodation for monks (who I actually saw this time) and the occasional Buddhist retreat. Given how many people had actually come into the temple to offer prayers and the number of no photography signs, I didn’t end up with many pictures of inside the buildings.

Then again, like with the Haedong Yonggung Temple, the thing of interest isn’t the building interiors rather it’s the picturesque setting of it being a temple in the mountains, surrounded by forest that’s makes good use of the existing terrain. If it wasn’t for time counting down in my head I would have liked to sit a while, but I also wanted to hike down the mountain back to the station. So that’s what we did and we grabbed a steamed pork bun at the end for our troubles.

This left us with more time than either of us had first expected that would have just been us sitting in the train building for no good reason. Then I remembered a sign in the Seomyeon for a Busan Citizens Park. Since that was near enough the hotel and the Lotte Mart where I had a purchase to make, we figured why not. So glad I remembered that sign.

Given the tree growth, you can tell this is a new park. Turns out I was correct, with this park being opened in mid-2014 after this area of land was transformed from an old US Army base into a stunningly well cultivated public space. Walking through here with trees that can only be 5-6 years old was lovely enough, but things are going to just get more and more beautiful as they all begin to grow.

This area also contains a miniature urban beach based off that in Haeundae, a stream with rock bridges and bridges covered in flowers, a pond stocked with a vibrant array of koi (and a few terrapins), a mirror pond, pagodas and all manners of areas for children to play in. I can only imagine how beautiful this will be when all the plants properly begin to fill in. I hope I’ll be able to see it.

So that’s the last thing from Busan aside from my wanting to swing by Lotte to pick up a sloth that has been calling my name for days. We then got our bags from the hotel, made our way to the station, bought a stupid amount of train food including beef bulgogi dosirak boxes from a convenience store and some assorted items from the station’s fish bakery. It’s nearly a three hour journey which allows for plenty of time to do some scenery watching until the sun decides to set.

And then, before I knew it, I’m in Seoul. The idea of doing a two week holiday is so weird to me that there was a part of me that had almost forgotten this final longer stay was coming. It’s one of those pleasant surprises that means you have even more time out of the office and that your 6 month run without a day off was worth it.

After getting acquainted with the hotel, we headed out to explore the nearby area. This meant a visit to Myeong-dong night market. So far I’ve liked the South Korean night markets, but they never quite lived up to either the hype or their Taiwanese counterparts. This one did. Not only is it massive, snaking through multiple streets and featuring everything from grilled cheese-lobster (15000₩ or just over £10) to phone charms, but it also has the shopping area of Myeong-dong as a backdrop. It took all my willpower to not buy a tornado potato and waste all my won in the local (and massive) Artbox store.

 

We were so spoiled for choice that it was unreal. We were also acutely aware that we were going to other night markets so wanted to make sure we got things that we felt were either an absolute must or had never seen before. So, based on the copious YouTube videos out there, we started with a seed covered egg bread which I liked a lot and my husband (who doesn’t like egg and surprised me by buying his own) literally choked down. We then roamed the streets and proceeded to buy some Korean sweet and sour chicken (the best I’ve had yet), a honey comb topped ice cream fish-bread and finished off with a Nutella filled taiyaki made using croissant pastry.

Well, further exploration of Seoul is going to have to wait as tomorrow we’re doing a long journey to Jeonju, the home of bibimbap, which means a 5:45am start. There’s other things there for sure, but the thing I am most looking forward to is the bibimbap. Just hope I don’t drown or suffer serious burns as my exhausted head falls into the scalding hot bowl.

Busan, we got off on the wrong foot on the first night where neck pain inspired insomnia left me cursing your name at three in the morning. I then fell for you super hard and am sad to have left you so soon. Hopefully we shall meet again in 2030.

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